Tag Archives: firewood

1898. The dead tree

I don’t know if you can see the photo of these two old trees. One’s dead, and the other is barely alive. My husband and I planted these trees years and years ago. He’s dead now – the husband. He planted the dead one. I planted the other one, the one that’s gnarled and barely alive. I’ll be eighty-seven this coming October.

There used to be a house roughly where the person taking the photo would be standing. That was our house. The first and only house we had. The two children were born there. It was our dream place; a lovely house, not too big and not too small, set on twelve acres of what could only be described as park land. We planted those two trees (and a number of others here and there) as part of the “landscaping” of our park. Our life was like a perpetual honeymoon.

Jude had built the house himself. And I helped of course, as best I could. I sewed drapes and did the painting and wall-papering and so on. Jude was the one with the saw and the hammer and the screw driver and the muscle. It was like a dream come true!

After the birth of the second child things fell apart. We’d been in the house for four years and we put it up for sale. No one ever bought it and Jude disappeared before any divorce proceedings began. I leased out most of the land to a neighbouring farmer and stayed in the house with the children. They’re gone now – the children. Tony’s a lawyer up in the big city, and Rachel manages a business that teachers adults how to do basic computer things.

My current house gets quite cold in winter, so I’ve asked Tony to come and cut down that dead tree for firewood. The one that’s barely alive has a few more years left in it. It might sound cruel but I’m looking forward to burning logs of Jude’s tree throughout the winter. It’s good he’s serving some purpose at this stage of my life. Apart from building the house he wasn’t much good for much when he was here. In fact he was useless. And mean; really mean. It’s why I did him in.

1875. The old woodshed

My late husband made this woodshed many, many years ago. It was very handy, not just for the wood, but I used to pot my house plants in there as well. My husband was very patient; he didn’t mind if I made a mess with the potting mix.

Of course the woodshed has other memories too. It was where my nephew Bartholomew accidentally injured his hand while cutting up kindling to start a fire. And it was where Virgil, a ward of the State we were looking after for the summer, set fire to a pile of old newspapers and just about burnt the whole place down. Thank goodness almost everything was made of corrugated iron. And then there was the time we caught a rat in the rat trap cage and Rocky – that was my husband – was away at a work weekend and I was too scared to go near the rat cage because of the rat. So the poor thing had to stay in the cage for several days. I kept throwing a jug of water on the cage thinking if it got thirsty it could lick the droplets off the cage wire.

So now, years later, I’ve had the shed bulldozed over. It wasn’t a bulldozer; it was a big tractor with huge fork-prong things in the front. The workmen were busy on the road that goes past my house, so I went out and put my hand up in the air for the tractor to stop when I saw it coming. I said, “Look, I’m an eighty-five year old widow and I have this woodshed that I don’t use anymore because I have a heat pump, and it’s starting to get dangerous. Every time there’s a gale I think it’s going to blow over into the house. I was wondering if you could drive the tractor onto my property and push the shed over.”

He said, “Of course lady. That’s no trouble and will only take a minute. The boss doesn’t need to know.”

So he drove the tractor into the wood shed and pushed it over like it was a pile of dead leaves. I was very grateful, and then he drove off.

I was wondering; what is an eighty-five year old widow meant to do with a huge amount of corrugated iron? It’s lying all over the place and the next wind it’s going to kick up bobsy-dye.

1824. Lockdown and the end of the golden weather

Miles ago, in fact last October 16, 2019, I posted a little piece about how I was digging up my front lawn for a garden. I promised progress reports, and one appeared on November 19 and another on February 12. With winter fast approaching in the southern hemisphere it’s time for a final report. So this report covers the lockdown and the end of the golden weather.

A Lombardy poplar tree blew over on the property in a summer storm, so I was able to use it to make little twig fences around the four garden patches. It looked semi-medieval (kind of rustic I thought). In fact it was to stop the dog from walking on the gardens and peeing on the peas. The dog was well trained and never once ventured across the twigs onto the gardens. High fences for climbing peas, beans, and blackberries were also constructed.

Before long there were poppies and petunias, dahlias and gladioli, cosmos and sweet peas. You’ll notice from the pictures that I have mainly white flowers and red flowers. This is a phase I’m passing through. Don’t worry, I’ve been passing through it for twenty years and will once day get over it. Anyway, red and white look very lovely, so for the time being I’m sticking with them. At least people know what colour flower seeds to get me for my birthday!

I wasn’t expecting much from the newly planted thornless blackberries, but we got several desserts from them including one big blackberry pie! Roll on next year!

There was a bumper crop of peas, beans, shallots, tomatoes, turnips, leeks, zucchinis, and capsicums (bell peppers). The photos show just a small portion – the freezer is full! It wasn’t a good year for potatoes and cucumbers. There’s never telling why. The silver beet (chard) kept going to seed.

The sunflowers provided cheer and enough seeds to hopefully feed the wild birds through winter. I’ve just got to make an artistic bird feeder.

I wasn’t greatly affected by the lockdown because there was so much to do and so much space. I am at that age where my nanny-state government wouldn’t let me go anywhere lest I die. What a consolation that they cared! Fortunately the landlord’s daughter-in-law was the pharmacist and sent prescribed life-prolonging pills via the landlord, and the farming neighbours on all sides plied the house with eggs and meat while we provided them with vegetables. You had to check the mailbox daily because you never knew if someone had stuffed a leg of lamb in there! All was a blessing because there was no money coming in for two months!

The dog walk was a regular fixture – demanded by the dog in sunshine or rain. He likes a daily swim in a nearby lake – he thinks it’s his duty to clear the lake of geese and ducks.

For 8 weeks on these walks we gathered enough wild mushrooms for a decent side dish each day. (Eight weeks is enough!) I also made pickles and chutneys and soups for canning and freezing with stuff out of the garden.

I’ve been going to a local farmer’s sheep-shearing shed with spade and buckets. By going underneath the slats in the shearing-shed floorboards, I can fill the buckets up for the garden with sheep manure that had dropped through the gaps in the floor over the years.

The landlord/farmer asked if we would like two dying trees (lawsoniana) for firewood. So a good deal of several weeks was spent cutting them down, chopping them up, and stacking them. Still haven’t quite finished.

The landlord also asked us if we would mind knocking down an old house on the property and smashing it to bits. It’s quite fun! I go there nearly every day to wreck away. The problem is the old house is plagued with fleas. So don’t come driving past while I’m standing in the open-doored garage throwing all my clothes in the washing machine before coming into the house! Your mind undoubtedly boggles!

These days the garden is looking tired.

I have scattered thousands of poppy seeds along the sides of the road outside my gate. If luck would have it the roadside next spring will look like Flanders Field. I’ve also sown nitrogen-fixing lupins in the gardens. They look quite pretty so it seems a shame to cut them down and dig them in, but that is a job to be done this week.

Here’s a picture of the sad and lonely last dahlia of the season.

Thus ends the closing days of autumn; the end of the golden weather. This final photo is taken today through my office window! I’m feeling rather pleased!

1649: Timber!

“It’s a beautiful summer’s day,” said Anton to his wife, Megan. “It’s the perfect day to cut down that pine tree that’s been blocking our view of the mountains.”

“It’s too dangerous,” said Megan. “You always said you’d get it done professionally. You don’t know much about cutting down a tree. You’ve only ever used your chainsaw to cut up logs that have already fallen over.”

“It’s no bother,” said Anton. “I’ve seen people do it, and I watched a video on how to do it as well. Today’s the perfect day for it.”

“Just think of your three kids,” said Megan. “They don’t want a tree falling and killing their father.”

“Balderdash!” said Anton. “I’m doing it. And we can cut up the tree and dry it for firewood.”

Time and time again in life the inevitable happens. Anton stubbornly took his chain saw out to the huge pine tree that was blocking the view of the mountains. He began to cut the tree down.

“TIMBER!” shouted Anton as the tree fell. “How exciting is that! See! It’s down and I’m still here. It simply takes a bit of know-how. Now to cut up firewood.”

By one in the afternoon Anton was dead. Heat stroke.

1626. Wrecked

Today’s story is simply a transcript of a newspaper report. I thought it was interesting, especially since “back in those days” ship wrecks were relatively common.

Christchurch Star – 16 August 1876

STEALING FROM A WRECK. – Joseph Kilpin, an elderly man, residing near the beach at New Brighton, was brought up on remand, charged with having stolen a quantity of timber forming part of the wreck of the ketch Jupiter. The ketch belonged to Major Hornbrook, and was in charge of Captain Robert Day. On August 3, she was wrecked while crossing the Sumner bar, and drifted onto the beach on the New Brighton side.

Being insured in the South British Company, the vessel was abandoned to them on August 4. The hull was sold on that day, but the cheque given in payment for it being dishonoured, the hull reverted again to the Company, whose property it had since been.

The hull broke up, and was strewn along the beach, and prisoner took a portion of it home to burn. When arrested timber to the value of several shillings was found on the prisoner’s premises, and he admitted having taken it from the wreck. In reply to prisoner, Mr Macpherson, agent for the South British Insurance Company, said he did not know there was any mark or notice on the wreck cautioning persons from removing any portions of it. He also informed the Bench that he had no desire to press the case severely against the prisoner, his sole desire being to caution people that they had no right to take away timber from wrecks. Prisoner, in defence, said he was entirely ignorant of doing wrong when he took the timber, and would never have touched it had there been any notice against its removal, or had he known that he would be acting illegally by taking it.

Three witnesses came forward voluntarily and gave prisoner a very high character for honesty and general conduct. One of them had known him eleven years, one five years, and the other three years, and they had always found him a hard working, steady, honest, and respectable man. Dr Foster said he might also inform the Bench that the habit of taking timber found on the sea beach was a very common occurrence, and he did not think it was generally known this was an offence against the law.

His Worship said he did not know whether it was generally understood that the offence complained of in this case was indictable, and persons who were guilty of it rendered themselves liable to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour. The law very properly regarded the matter as very serious, because it was an offence against a person who might have lost his all by the wreck. Supposing the owner of the vessel had not been insured, the loss would have been heavy, and the law ought to protect persons in cases of this kind from losing what little might be saved from the wreck.

A very high character had been given to prisoner, and as he might have acted in ignorance of the law, he would be discharged, but must be more careful in future. Both he and others in the habit of picking up timber from wrecks must remember by doing so that they rendered themselves liable to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour. The case would be dismissed. (Applause).

1584. On a wet evening

Usually we quite enjoy taking the dog for its daily walk. Being creatures of habit, we seem to cover the same trail, but there’s always a new flower in someone’s garden, or a dead hedgehog on the road that the dog must stay away from, or a bird that wasn’t singing on that branch yesterday, or a car parked in a silly place…

“You’d think they wouldn’t park on the grass verge, dear. People like us walk here with our dogs. Some people have no sense.”

Of course, if it’s raining the walk with the dog is another matter altogether.

“Would you mind taking the dog for a walk on your own today, dear? I’m halfway through preparing dinner.”

And later…

“While you’re wet, dear, would you mind going out to the woodshed in the rain and getting the firewood for this evening? It’s going to be a cold night and I’m half way through peeling the potatoes.”

And still later…

“Goodness! Five o’clock already! Could you pour me a little wine, dear, when you’ve finished lighting the fire? I’m halfway through stuffing the chicken.”

And round about dinner time…

“What a miserable night, dear, so wet and cold. Would you mind popping out? I thought we could get take-away.”

1485. Ned’s old truck

Ned Grinter had an old truck. Some might call the old truck a pick-up and some might call it a ute. It was once white, and a bit battered. It was Ned’s pride and joy, although he didn’t use it much – mainly several times a year to gather firewood for the winter. The rest of the time he used his car. He would polish the truck’s tires, and even polish the black cover that stretched over the back of the truck. Some might call the back of the truck a deck and some might call it a tray.

Ned was out collecting firewood in the forest with his wife, Barbara. He was chucking the firewood haphazardly onto the back of the truck. He was doing mighty fine loading wood when Barbara suggested that if he packed the wood nicely he’d be able to fit more on.

He didn’t have time to pack things nicely. They could come back and get a second load. It was quicker not to be fussy.

Things developed into an argument and then Ned, firewood only half loaded, took off in his truck for back home. And when he got home he stretched the cover over the back of the truck and said, Stuff it; stuff the firewood; his wife could freeze through the winter for all he cared.

So Ned’s old truck stayed unused throughout the cold winter, parked behind the back of the garden shed. Come the end of winter and Ned needed to use his truck to pick up a beer fridge he’d bought online. He unloaded the firewood. But he didn’t have a clue what to do with his wife’s decomposing corpse.

1406. Firewood

Curtis and Miriam hadn’t actually frozen to death throughout the winter, but they were never warm, never cosy. The wood burner in the house worked well enough, but they had to ration the firewood to make it last throughout the winter. The next winter they wouldn’t be caught out. They lived on the edge of a pine forest, so the coming summer would be a time to collect, chop and stack firewood.

Come summer, and Curtis and Miriam put several hours a day into the firewood. By autumn, they had enough firewood to keep the fire going all day every day throughout the winter.

That was when they received a notice from their landlord to vacate the house in several weeks. It was needed. It would no longer be rented.

Curtis and Miriam looked everywhere for another house to rent. The only suitable one didn’t have a wood burner. It had a heat pump. They moved in. They sold their firewood.

Come winter, on the proceeds from the firewood, they had a wonderful two weeks basking in the sun on a tropical island.